Monday, June 24, 2024

The uninvited guest (611 words)

 

It was very cold at this time of year, and the chill wind added to the discomfort. I sat aimlessly on a raised parapet wall near the metro station lounge. Without a ticket, I couldn’t access the warm, comfortable seats inside. With nowhere to go and no money to spend, I had just finished my last cigarette when I heard the shuffle of feet beside me.

Looking weary and unkempt, a young woman in her early twenties approached. "Can I sit here for a while? A jerk has been stalking me, and if he sees us talking, he might leave me alone."

I turned and saw a tall, muscular man with a county cap walking away. I asked,” Okay, sit down. Tell me, where do you live? It’s obvious you’re not travelling by train."

"Frankly, I have no place to go. I’m just wandering around," she replied

"Where were you living before?"

"With a man for six months until he threw me out this morning."

"Why did he throw you out? Another woman?"

"I don’t know. He didn’t give a reason. I moved in on the day I met him because I had no place to go. Maybe he found out I lost my job as a barmaid last week," she replied

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to leave her alone in the dangerous night, but I was wary of bringing a stranger to my room.

She broke my reverie, touching my hand. "Please help me for tonight. I promise I’ll leave in the morning."

Seeing the stalker lurking nearby, I decided. "Okay, come with me. My room is small; you’ll have to sleep on the floor and leave at daybreak. Clear?"

We walked through dark, dingy lanes until we reached my basement room. It was self-contained, with a bath and kitchenette. I handed her a faded pair of jeans and a shirt. "Take a shower. You can use the soap and shampoo. These clothes should fit you. Remember, you’re leaving in the morning."

"Thank you," she said, shaking my hand. "I’ll be quick."

As she showered, I heard a noise and saw her peeking out. She closed the door swiftly and continued her shower. When she emerged, she looked transformed.

"You look amazing," I said.

"Thank you. I’m starving. Can I check your fridge?"

"No, sit down. I have pizza, an apple, and milk if you want to warm it."

I had already prepared a bed on the floor for her "You can eat and then sleep. I’m dead tired and going to bed. No funny business. I’m just being hospitable."

At 7 AM, a loud knock jolted me awake. The woman wasn’t in bed, but the bathroom light was on. I opened the door slightly to see the stalker push his way in.

"Where’s the lady?" he demanded.

"Who are you to barge into my place? Get out!" I shouted.

He flashed an identity card from the Anti-Drugs Authority and let in two armed men. Shocked, I turned towards the bathroom as the door opened.

The stalker saluted her, sending a chill down my spine. She spoke softly but firmly, "Check the wall by the bed. He was meddling there last night."

"You dirty bitch," I swore as the men restrained me. They found a hidden vault with a large cache of contraband inside.

Handcuffed and pushed into a waiting car, she approached him and said, "Sorry, buddy. You were a good host, but I had my duty. We knew you had the stuff but needed solid evidence. Now we have it." She turned and walked to her chauffeured car, leaving me to face the consequences.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Meeting God (481 words)

 

When I easily reached the sanctum sanctorum and gazed upon God bathed in sandalwood, a voice from nowhere asked, “Did you grease someone’s palm to enter here?”

 I shuddered in disbelief and confessed in fear, “Yes.”

“It is unethical. When you meet me next Sunday, it will be elsewhere and you don’t have to bribe or wait. It will be instantaneous,” said the voice.

Drenched in sweat and fear, I thought of the many unfinished things like my unwritten will, collecting the huge loans given to trusted friends, the several benami transactions of land and property and legal disputes. I thought of my grieving family with my wife and two young children.

I was hardly able to walk. I pinched myself to ensure I was not dreaming.

Suddenly, the voice softened and continued, “But fear not, for this is your chance to change. Your actions today have brought you to this moment, but you can make amends. Use the time you have to set things right.”

Determined, I decided to address all my unfinished business ethically. I wrote my will, reached out to friends to settle debts amicably, paid the dues and made arrangements to transfer properties honestly.I also set aside liberally for charity.

When Sunday came, I was filled with a mix of apprehension and peace. I decided to live a life of honesty and truth, with no greed but a charitable disposition. I reached the nearby park, expecting a divine encounter. Instead, I found myself at the park with many children playing on the swings and slides and families enjoying the day. I hailed a sugar candy vendor making balls of cotton-like candies in colours and asked him to give one or two to each one of them. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the children dancing happily with candies in their hands.

It was then I heard a soft cough from nearby. Confused, I looked around until I saw an old man sitting on a bench, smiling at me. “You’re here,” he said warmly. “Sit with me.”

I sat beside him like an obedient student, and he handed me a small, worn-out book. “This is your new beginning,” he said. “Every good deed, every moment of kindness, will fill these pages starting from today’s candies to the children. Live each day as if you’re writing a story worth telling.”

As I opened the book, I saw the first entry written in elegant script: Today, you chose to live with integrity and compassion.

I looked up, but the old man was gone. The park seemed even brighter, and my heart felt lighter. I realised that meeting God wasn’t about leaving this world but transforming my life within it. Every action, every choice, was a step toward the divine.

I walked away from the park, ready to fill my new book's pages with a life worth living.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sujita's surprise (934 words)

Sujita saw a young man walking with a white stick in hand ahead of her but unsure of himself. He stopped at the signal, presumably to reach the park on the other side. The traffic on the road was heavy with cars and buses whizzing past at great speed. She hurried to be by his side before he stepped on the road. Just as she feared, he got onto the road even when the signal was in amber. She held him back by her hand and said "Please wait. The signal has not yet turned green for pedestrians to cross"

"Thank you. I couldn't notice it," he replied.

"Never mind. I will take you across the road" she said without leaving his hand.

"Not necessary, I can manage as I am accustomed to walking alone."

"I am going to that side only. It is no trouble for me. It is risky to cross the road alone even when the way is clear for pedestrians as some drivers are always in a hurry."

She led him to a bench in the park and was about to leave when he asked, “May I know the name of my benefactor? I am Mahesh living in the complex Green Height nearby."

She noticed he was around 27 or 28, very handsome with curly hair and a gentle voice. Though his eyes were open, there was a vacant look. She wondered why God was cruel in endowing him with great charm but denying him the vision.

“I am Sujita and living in the Apoorva complex just a few blocks from yours. Do you visit the park daily at this time?" she asked.

"Yes, I do. Sujita is a sweet name. I am lucky to meet you. From your voice, I infer you must be young. What do you do, studying or working?"

"I am 24 and a software engineer. What do you do for a living though it may sound silly to ask this question?"

"I am a writer and indulge in poetry too. I have a few published books to my credit. I need help to write as I am nearly blind. I employ people for that" he said.

“How nice to know you are a writer. I love poetry and even dabble in it. I can help you at this time for an hour or so if you can dictate. I can give you the edited copies in print the next day.."

What started like this soon turned into a liking for each other that bordered on love within a short period though both did not openly express it. She was unsure whether her parents would agree and was herself in two minds. He had also not indicated his love for her as he was presumably averse to imposing himself on a young lady with a bright and happy future. Nevertheless, they met daily with her helping him out amidst small talk. Both of them seemed to look forward to these daily meetings.

One day when it started drizzling, he declined her suggestion to accompany him up to his complex. Asked about his family, he said he had an elder brother who was married and a younger sister. Sujita also had not invited him home for fear of what her parents would say about this friendship.

A week later she met her friend Kusum in the mall after a long time. She worked in Mumbai and had come down to her parent's place in Bengaluru on a short holiday. Sujita suddenly recollected that her parents resided in Green Heights as Mahesh did.

 "Kusum, are you aware of a young and handsome guy Mahesh by name, an author and poet but unfortunately blind living in your complex?" asked Sujita

"Yes, I know one Mahesh who writes and dabbles in poetry but this guy is not blind. Maybe someone else or in some other complex," Kusum replied.

"Maybe another person but this guy dictates daily his poems or novel at the park and I write for him since a month. He said he has an elder brother married and a younger sister. But this guy sadly is blind though very handsome,He has a button on one of his ears.”

"Sujita, I think I know this guy and what he is up to. Why don't you come today at 4 pm to my house? I think I can unravel the mystery," Kusum said.

“What mystery are you referring to?” Sujita asked somewhat puzzled.

“Do come and you will know for yourself,” said Kusum.

At 4 pm sharp when she pressed the bell and Kusum opened the door, Sujita saw Mahesh watching TV with his parents and laughing loudly at some scene to her great bewilderment.  How come he watches TV? Is he a liar and a cheat?" she wondered.

“Mahesh, turn around and see your scribe, Sujita. Why do you play this dirty trick on her? Don’t you know we are great friends from our college days?" asked Kusum.

A highly embarrassed Mahesh turned  and said “I am sorry, Sujita. I have seen you with my sister a couple of times. I didn't know how to befriend you and employed this trick. I was about to surprise you by revealing my ruse but my sister spoiled it. Please excuse me but it was difficult to pretend to be blind. It is good that you have come here. My parents would be happy to meet you."

“I suspected this right from the beginning as I found from my side glances your  staring at me always,” she said with a giggle.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Pushpa's wish (655 words)


This is a delectable short story written more than a decade back. I am sure of your chuckle at the end.!

Pushpa, whenever she found time in the evenings, went to the lake nearby. Sitting alone and watching the darkening sky as the sun went down made her forget her gloomy life. With mom sick, dad slogging at a textile shop for long hours for a measly salary and four siblings, she bore the brunt of the work. She could not join college. Although smart and attractive, she was not fortunate in circumstances but had a positive outlook hoping for a miracle.

She saw a little yonder in the sky, a dark bluish smoke-like thing emerging from the lake that soon morphed into a tall figure that was broad in the middle but tapered into a narrow line. She got up hurriedly to leave the place but it stood before her in a trice. In a booming voice, it said, "Don't be afraid. I will not harm you. I am a genie and remained bottled up for many years by an evil man. I got released a little while ago when the bottle was pushed against a rock by a fish and the bottle broke. I am in a happy frame of mind and wish to grant you a boon being the first person I saw on my release. You can choose one of the three wishes that can neither be modified nor taken back. I will appear after two years to see how you are faring Are you ready to listen?"

Pushpa gathered courage and said “Shoot out. I am in a hurry."

"The first one is you can become very rich but remain unmarried all through life. The second one is you will remain poor but get a very handsome and loving husband.
The third one is you will get rich and get a reasonably good husband also but you will live only for three more years. Think carefully and tell me what you wish."

It was a tough choice for Pushpa. She thought about her needs, her family’s needs and also about the future. It was difficult and took considerable time

“Be quick. I give you two minutes to decide,” said the genie

“Okay, I have decided to go for the first wish”

“Oh my god, do you wish to remain a spinster all through life for the sake of money? It is, however, your choice. I grant it now. Will see you again after two years. Good luck.”

Within a short time, she became a crorepati in KBC and made wise investments in the textile business that turned highly profitable. She bought a new house, educated her siblings, and got her mom treated well. Everyone was happy and life was very​​ comfortable with servants to assist. Pushpa was also cheerful and had put on some flab in her happiness. It was all hunky dory for them.

Exactly two years later when Pushpa was sitting in her usual spot at the lakeside, the genie appeared as promised. “How are you, my young friend? I can see signs of prosperity and you also look healthier. But I am sorry that you remain unmarried at an age when you should be enjoying life.”

“When were you, my benefactor, bottled up by the evil man?” she asked.

“Ah, it must be more than sixty years though I don’t remember exactly.”

“Never mind. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The world has changed a lot. What if I am a spinster? Haven’t you heard of ‘live-in’ relationships? I have a handsome guy living with me and we are not married in deference to your condition. I am very happy and indebted to you for life” she said and laughed merrily.

“I never knew about such an option as otherwise I would have worded the wish differently. Where is the world headed, I wonder? Continue to be happy and get married to him, if you wish, my friend,” the genie exclaimed, as it vanished.

 

 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

What a strong fate line can do for you? (969 words)

 Anand was in despair as all his efforts to secure a job had failed. He was tired of attending interviews only to be rejected. He was just a graduate with no special skills He stood no chance in a job market where skilled persons were ready to work for smaller remuneration. He knew his dad held no high opinion of him and thought his craze for singing film songs would lead him nowhere.

True he had an arresting voice and could enthral his friends by singing very much like the famous playback singers. His mom would often tell that if she closed her eyes she hardly could distinguish his singing from the famous names. He was already 26 and his dad would retire soon. There was a compelling need to augment the family income

As he was sitting in the park lost in his sullen thoughts, one man with ash marks and a big Kumkum on his forehead sat by his side. After some silence, he made a gratuitous remark, “I can read faces and hands. I can see you are worried about your future. Let me read your palm and tell you what is in store for you.”

When Anand ran his hand over his empty pocket, the man said,” You don’t have to pay anything.” After reading his hand intently, the man did not utter one word. When he rose to leave, Anand asked him to tell unhesitatingly whatever he had found out.

The man said,” I am sorry. The Money line on your palm is hazy and broken in many places. That would signify a life of want and misery. Still, I see other signs of prosperity. I am confused as I have rarely come across a palm like yours.”

That night he had a weird and crazy thought like, “Why not make a strong well-etched fortune line and change the course of my life” He took a pen knife and drew a line on his palm with the sharp knife. In the sudden pain, he fell cutting his artery in the wrist as well. There were none in the house then. Luckily, he was taken by neighbours in the nick of time to hospital. He had to remain in the hospital for some days. It was here destiny played its queer part. He fell in love with the attractive nurse Sindhu attending to him. She too took a fancy for him. She contrived to spend longer hours with him.

When they knew each other's interests and passions, she was surprised about his craze for singing. Being a music buff herself, she made him sing for her. She was mesmerised by the ease with which he sang, his rich voice with its high reach, and his incredible ability to imitate the legends in the field. She became more attracted to him and their love grew in intensity. But she knew he was jobless and she was willing to wait. He was discharged from the hospital. Unlike the hazy one earlier, the wound had healed with a clear fate line on his palm. They both laughed over the funny incident that brought them together.

Back at home, he started with renewed vigour to find a job. After a month or so, he received a call one day on his mobile. The voice said “Is it Anand? I am an assistant to the famous music director Tune King. He wants you to come for an audition at his studio tomorrow. Are you coming?”

Anand asked in a perplexed tone” I am Anand alright. But I am not in the cine field or well known. Are you sure you have the right number?”

“The Music director gave the number he possibly got from someone who had recommended you. Please come without fail. This could be a big breakthrough, who knows?” he said

He had to wait for a long time. There were many going in and coming out. Finally, just before 6 pm, he was called in. The director looked like a hefty man and was quite tall with an imposing figure. Clad in spotless white, he said,” So you are Anand. I heard from someone you sing well and can imitate the big stars in the field. But I want you to sing any song you like in your style. If I like your voice and am satisfied that you will suit me, I will make you sing with accompaniments. Come on, be free from fear.”

Wondering who could have mentioned about him, Anand sang one catchy and popular song with effortless ease. Taken aback, the director asked him to sing one more. That done, he kept asking him to sing again and again. He finally stood up and came near him to hug him saying “I have found a rare gem. You have great talent. You will turn the music world upside down. From now on, you are working for me and no one else. We will draft an agreement tomorrow” He drew from his pocket a bundle of notes and gave him saying ‘Keep this. This is a small token of my appreciation”

When Anand lingered, the director asked him “Yes, what do you want?”

“May I know who recommended my name to you for no one in the field knows me. This is a private hobby of mine”

Hearing this, he laughed aloud and said “That pretty nurse girl in the hospital spoke for you. I was there for some treatment. She took a promise from me that I would hear you once. Are you in love with her or what?”

Six months later when Anand was in his home cutting apples with a knife, his wife Sindhu snatched the knife from him and said smilingly” I would not trust you anymore with a knife.”

Monday, May 27, 2024

Manoj's predicament (401 words)

 

Manoj was in deep debt and was threatened by recovery agents with dire consequences if he failed to return the money. He was the sole breadwinner for his parents and younger siblings. He could see no way to clear the debt except to seek refuge in God He left a few hundred of rupees with his parents and told them he would be back in two days.

He travelled to Tirupati ticketless and stood in the long queue for a free darshan safe from the recovery agents for two days. As the queue moved slowly, he prayed with closed eyes, “My lord, show me a way out, other than suicide. I cannot think of any other way to resolve the problem. The ruffians have given me the ultimatum that if I do not pay immediately, they will break my limbs and throw us all out of our house. If I am freed of this burden of debts, I promise to renounce the world and be your devotee and at your service forever.”

Everyone around in the vicinity saw the handsome and young Manoj praying intensely with tears flowing from his eyes.

When the queue pushed him, he opened his eyes and was surprised to find a bundle of yellow cloth lying hidden behind a pillar. Someone must have dropped it, meant for the Hundi, by mistake. He hid the bundle securely in his dhoti. All his problems vanished in a trice like snowflakes before the sun. God in his infinite mercy, he thought, had answered his prayer. He rightly decided to honour his promise from the very moment he found the bundle. 

As he left the temple and walked into the bazaar the thought, of missing fancy dress, a motorbike, and a binge of good food with beer, tormented him. Undeterred, he wore an ochre robe. His mind was restless as he sat again in the temple in his yellow clothes. Tears trickled from his eyes as he realised it would not be easy to take to Sanyasa. It was a promise he foolishly made in haste. He was now in a quandary not knowing how to get out of this tricky situation he had invited upon himself. His eyes with tears flowing were closed in deep thought. 

Then he heard a voice,” Pack up. The day’s shooting is over,” even as the director patted him and said,” Well done, Manoj.”

 

 

Saturday, May 25, 2024

An encounter with a noble soul (668 words)

We live in a small town, rather an oversized village, about thirty kilometres from Trichy. It is an old house slightly narrow but very long with a porch at the entrance and a large vacant ground in the backyard. It was built during my husband’s grandfather’s time. We chose to live in this place as we had vast lands in the adjacent villages. A lawyer by profession, my husband is not practising much these days except to help old clients. The children in the city visit us on weekends off and on.

One evening, I was watching the TV, when I heard someone calling ’Amma’. I found an old man of about seventy, frail, small-built and not looking well off. He had a smiling face belying his indigent circumstances as revealed by his frayed collar and much-worn-out chappals.

He said softly “I am sorry to bother you. I came to this place to return some amount I had taken as a loan from a friend. He came home only at 9 pm. The last bus to my place had already left and the first bus arrives only at 6 am. Would you kindly allow me to sleep on the porch (thinnai in Tamil) for the night? My relations with that person are a bit strained and there was no question of my requesting him.”

 As my husband was yet to return from the city, I hesitated a little. My six-year-old granddaughter Suguna who had come to stay with me for a few days said,” Grandma, please allow grandpa to sleep on the porch. Where else can he sleep in the night? He looks tired and hungry.” That clinched the matter.

I gave him a mat, a pillow and a sheet to cover as mosquitoes are a menace here. Declining to have food, he accepted a glass of buttermilk and plantain when I insisted. I could hear him talking to Suguna and her peals of laughter now and then from the hall where I was before the TV. I could discern a jovial personality within this frail man depressed possibly by financial worries.

 When I came to take Suguna inside, he mentioned, “I have a married son with children living in New Delhi. My daughter-in-law is also well-employed. Unfortunately, my wife fell from the bus some years ago and is unable to walk. She needs help even to take her to the bathroom.”

“My God, it is very tough for both of you. How are you managing?” I asked

“By God’s grace, one lady in the adjacent flat is friendly and helpful whenever I had to go outside. After this accident, my son and his wife have become distant and aloof. He was sending money earlier whenever asked for. But I have since stopped asking him. I am getting a pension that is just adequate. I have no complaints to make and am thankful to God for keeping me physically fit and healthy to take care of my wife and manage my affairs without imposing on others,” he said

A thought crossed my mind. Financially not sound, advanced in age, a crippled wife, denied the affection of his only son in the twilight years of the couple, yet he counted his blessings instead of griping about his disappointments. He was grateful to God for the doughnut he had, instead of cursing the holes in it. I wished him good night and went inside with my granddaughter Suguna

When I woke up the next morning and went out to the porch with a cup of coffee, I found he had gone. The mat and the sheet were neatly folded and kept over the pillow. When I lifted them to carry inside, I found a small piece of paper folded and a fifty rupee note fell on opening. He had scribbled in pencil “To dear Suguna, with love, Grandpa.” I wiped the tears from my eyes.

“Circumstances do not make you what you are, they reveal what you are” John Maxwell